Life in the Slow Lane

Contemplating life, faith, words, and memories

Chronic Illness and the Writer | A Series (Part 1) — May 16, 2018

Chronic Illness and the Writer | A Series (Part 1)

What defines a chronic illness?

Depending on what resource you use, you may find a variety of answers to this question. However, in my research as a writer and a patient, it appears the duration of an illness usually labels it as “chronic.” The length required in the health insurance industry is a duration of at least three months or longer. Overall, the medical profession usually considers one year as defining chronic illness.

An article authored by Wullianallur Raghupathi and Viju Raghupathi and published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Health (the “Raghupathi findings”) shares the following definition of chronic illness:

‘a physical or mental health condition that lasts more than one year and
causes functional restrictions or requires ongoing monitoring or treatment’

Three months doesn’t seem all that long, and yet a year seems like a long time to be under the veil of illness. But suppose the illness or condition lasts longer. Let’s say the rest of your life. Based on your age, that could be several decades or a few years. Take into account the illness or condition and it could be a stressful situation for you and perhaps those you love.

How many people suffer from chronic illnesses?

The Raghupathi findings state that almost half of all Americans (45% or 133 million) suffer from one or more chronic conditions or illnesses. The persistence of such illnesses drive up hospitalizations, insurance costs, long-term disability payments, and death. The only factor showing a downward movement is the quality of life.

A quick look at some common chronic illnesses.

The following listing was compiled with the assistance of the Internet and should not be considered all-inclusive:

As noted, this is not a complete listing of chronic illnesses or conditions that fall under the description used by insurance companies or healthcare facilities as “chronic.” For example, there are numerous conditions which create chronic pain in some individuals. Likewise, respiratory conditions are diagnosed which over the long-term will cause a patient to struggle with chronic breathing issues.

Before moving on, I want to clarify that this post is written with writers in mind. However, it is not intended to imply that other individuals, no matter their profession or career, don’t fall victim to chronic illnesses and the struggles mentioned here. My personal experience is my lens into the subject matter and, therefore, writers and writing are my focus here.

Also, I am not a medical professional. Any tips and/or advice shared are my personal tools for coping. Before using them, you should consult your personal physician.

Coping with a chronic illness.

Coping with chronic illness is not easy for anyone. Chronic illness disrupts not only the victim’s life but also the lives of family, friends, co-workers, and on and on. A chronic illness often begins a cycle of many other changes in the victim’s life, including the onset of depression, lack of society, changing eating habits, level of physical activity, often outward appearance, and more.

The side effects of the chronic illness or pain are sometimes more destructive than the primary illness itself. For example, depression is a component of my chronic pain. Days become long and sad when all your energy is focused on controlling the pain. Certain prescription medications, such as opioids, make bad matters worse in some instances.

Depression can lead to anger and frustration with never-ending illness or pain. When there are no new answers or treatments, it is easy to fall into a pattern of anger and often your anger is taken out on someone rather than the thing creating your emotional upset.

Sometimes you feel like burying your head under the covers and hibernating as a bear does in winter. But this isn’t a solution either. Withdrawing from the society of family and community leaves you feeling lonely, adding to the cycle of depression and anger.

Needless to say, none of these cyclical add-on symptoms help the main cause of the chronic illness knocking on the door of your life.

How does a writer function under these circumstances?

As writers, we’re encouraged to write every day. What do you do when every day isn’t always a good day? How do you move on with your writing when medications leave you in a mental fog? If your pain level is so intense nothing brings relief, how do you manage to put words on the page?

I can tell you firsthand it isn’t easy. You want to write, but somehow you can’t. You search for something that will trigger the flow of words, but nothing happens. Your head seems to be swirling out of control, and then…

Your mind becomes filled with a massive list of questions:

  • How will I meet my deadline?
  • How will I ever get through the edits on my manuscript?
  • I need to get out and get some research done. How can I manage that?
  • Getting out of bed to get my family out the door in the mornings is a challenge. What can I do to make it any easier for me, them?
  • Some days the depression envelops me. How can I break that cycle?
  • I’m angry and frustrated that my life is controlled by a chronic illness/pain. Is there some way to resolve this emotional state I’m in?
  • And likely this list could grow ad infinitum.

Conclusion.

Here is a good place to end Part 1. In Part 2, I share answers to some of the above questions and tips for coping with the chronic nature of some illnesses and pain.

Please feel free to share your thoughts and/or stories about someone you know who has a chronic illness or your own story if you’re comfortable doing so.

 

 

Writer MIA 27 Days Returns to Write Again! — May 9, 2018

Writer MIA 27 Days Returns to Write Again!

Where was I the last 27 days?

Almost a month ago, I posted on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn that I was taking a breather. I needed some self-care, and I wanted to attempt a little spring cleaning. I thought ten days or less should cover it. Why I didn’t post my planned absence here I don’t know. So much for my thinking things through!

 

During what was to be a short time, life took over. You know how plans exert their muscle and change themselves around. That’s what happened. Family issues, health issues, things you never expected–they left no time for my plans.

But wait, you say! There have been no blog posts or newsletter for a while.

I realize you’re following here or receiving updates via my newsletter to receive posts and more information about writing. The reason for this post is to let you know what happened and what is happening in the background. I’m on my way back and want to get back to a normal schedule.

About the Blog

Right now I’m working on the following:

  • A series of posts on writing with chronic pain or illness;
  • A couple of memoir reviews for you–
    • Rose Bingham’s Buy the Little Ones a Dolly;
    • Abigail Thomas’s Thinking About Memoir; and
  • Posts on balancing family life and writing.

Blog posts will return to the previous schedule with posts on Wednesday.

About the Newsletter

After this newsletter mailing, I will not be sending out a newsletter. Personal reasons dictate a writing load I want to keep up and there is not the time for everything.

If you receive my blog posts via the newsletter and wish to continue receiving them, please go to the sidebar on the right of this page. Choose one of three options near the top of the sidebar:

  • The first option is just under the search box. If you are a WordPress user, this simple bar reads “Follow The Writing Studio.” It allows you to “follow” my blog with no more effort than a simple click. My blog posts will then show up in your WordPress Reader.
  • Option two is just below that bar and asks if you’d like to receive my posts via email. If so, simply fill out the form and click on the “Click to Follow” button and WordPress will send them to you.
  • A third option labeled “Let’s Connect” allows you to receive my blog posts on any of the social media channels listed there. Simply click the icon and it will take you where want to go.

Thanks for your understanding and continuing support as I get back in the saddle. Sometimes the writing life is a difficult one, but I can’t seem to turn my back on it. I love writing, the writing community (all of you included), and the joy found in the written word.

 

 

 

 

 

Spring: Time for Cleaning and Decluttering — March 15, 2018

Spring: Time for Cleaning and Decluttering

The northwest has enjoyed some early spring weather this year. On each clear and sunny day, Husband Bob has been outside cleaning and decluttering our yard. We love our mini-forest but each rain and wind storm brings down needles, fir and pine cones, tiny boughs, medium-sized limbs.

At some point, this gets under Bob’s skin and he HAS to get out there and clean it up so the debris doesn’t get ahead of him. Still not able to get out and help him I stay inside and work but I’ve begun to notice that my housekeeping has slackened a bit over the last two plus years. It’s time to get busy!

Spring cleaning usually makes us think of home. But what about our work spaces? As writers, we often overlook that space. I know mine needs a good cleaning and decluttering, but where to start. Today let’s look at what you can do to enhance your writing space.

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1. Author Website

Yes, your website! As writers, we are careful to keep content current and regularly produced, but what about the following: your bio, your photo, old content in your sidebar(s), broken links, page load speed, recent backup, delete unnecessary plugins, activate any plugin updates, check site’s responsiveness on mobiles and other browsers. Many components of our websites are often updated. If we’re not keeping those updates current, our sites will not function well for our readers.

2. Email

Although your email program likely holds a lot of data, it is still a good idea to go through your email system and delete unneeded folders, no longer needed emails just sitting there, newsletters you don’t subscribe to any longer, and perhaps consolidate some duplicate folders under different names.

Another and perhaps hardest step in managing your email is to unsubscribe when going through new mail to those mailings or newsletters which you consistently delete without opening.

3. Computer

If you are a Microsoft user, you probably know how to use Microsoft’s disc cleanup to maintain your computer. For Mac users, I’m told there is a program called CleanMyMac3 which is easy to install and operate.

A large variety of “clean my pc” software exists online. However, be cautious and make certain you know what you’re downloading. One last piece of advice not to be ignored: if you are not already doing so regularly, backup your computer often.

4. Social Media

Time to make sure certain things are up-to-date in this part of your writing life. Check profiles on social media, settings, check apps attached to your Facebook author page to make sure they’re working, make sure videos and/or trailers are loaded to author pages on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook author page, etc., and check groups on LinkedIn and Goodreads to determine which ones you should leave (i.e. not active or productive) and search for new groups to try.

5. The All-Important Desk

Last but not least, what about your desk? Is it clutter-free? Are stacks of paper stashed all around, on the floor, underneath? Sort out that paper! If you have physical file folder, place any related paper there. If you don’t need it, recycle it.

If you’re not sure, start a temporary folder as a holding place for these. If there’s a chance you’ve filed any of the paper to Evernote or OneNote or another app, take some time each week to doublecheck those apps for that piece of paper. And if it’s there, get rid of it. I’m guilty of this last one, and I’m working on this now.

There are many other steps we can take so that each morning we can walk into a space ready for us to write. It was impossible to cover everything in one blog post.

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If you have a suggestion about cleaning and decluttering, please share it below in the Comment section.

Dealing with Unmet Goals and Expectations — March 3, 2018

Dealing with Unmet Goals and Expectations

Dealing With Unmet Goals And Expectations

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How do goals and expectations go awry?

You set goals and make New Year’s resolutions. January comes, and it goes. Soon you feel less than productive. In fact, you’re somewhat depressed at the progress you’re not making. You start checking up on the goals and/or resolutions you made. Expectations haven’t come to fruition. What you wanted to accomplish hasn’t come to pass.

Now you feel guilty that you’ve let 31 days slip through your fingers. You rake your fingers through your hair and moan. Chastising yourself doesn’t change anything. It really boils down to commitment.

How do you commit to something so intangible?

The word “commitment” invokes a promise, an obligation to do something that will show tangible results, right? Goals, expectations, and resolutions are not tangible. So, to whom or what are you promising you’ll do this thing?

In the first place, I don’t make resolutions and rarely set goals. Each year I usually choose a word to underscore my motivation for the year. For 2018, I selected the word “fearless.”

Focusing on writing and working in fearless anticipation of completing projects is supposed to keep me writing and moving forward each day. However, I look back on January and consider it a bust.

I had committed to completing a couple of essays, posting on the blog at least once each week, and sending out my newsletter the third Wednesday of each month. In addition, I wanted to continue researching my novel, developing my characters, and hopefully starting the first draft. If I were to give you free run of my laptop, you’d not find any of those commitments completed, either partially or in total.

What happened to good intentions?

You may ask yourself this question when everything seems to fall apart. Usually it’s the result of distractions or interruptions. Here’s what happens to me most often:

  • Something didn’t meet my expectations and/or something caused me to start questioning my own value, worth or ability.
  • When this questioning persists and I begin to believe that every day will look like the last one, discouragement sets in and it seems nothing will ever get better.
  • Then I lose my focus on that special word, “fearless,” the word that is supposed to keep me pushing through these feelings of discouragement and what I see as failure.

But all is not lost. Discouragement can be a gift.

As strange as it seems, there can be gifts along the journey of discouragement, fear of failure, and lack of success.

Discouragement will uncover those expectations. When I expect something to happen a certain way and it doesn’t, I’m disappointed. My whole being gets sad, and I cease to function in a productive way.

Next, discouragement has a way of showing up and teaching me about my misplaced trust. Everything writers do related to success is also connected to reports from Google or other social media about algorithms and the number of followers, number of comments, etc. When these numbers don’t measure up, I feel a sense of worthlessness because I must not be providing what my readers are looking for. Where have I placed my trust? In things that are fickle and unstable. Perhaps I should place my trust in God, someone I know I can rely on to keep things on an even keel.

Discouragement has also taught me how to define my worth. Am I more concerned with success because I’m writing “fearlessly,” or because of success-by-metrics? If by the first, then I am truly worthy of that success. It’s solid.

It has also revealed my control issues and who or what I listen to. I believe that what I can control allows me to direct the outcome of that project. If I work hard enough, strive enough, and push on through, I’ll be successful. This is not always the case. And that’s when I realize I need to buckle down and try harder.

I tend to read everything I can find on writing and how to improve and be successful. Reading is a beautiful thing, and I love to read. However, reading isn’t going to be the factor that makes me a successful writer if I allow reading to distract me from my focus. Reading what others have written on writing is a good thing unless it takes over and pulls me away from my writing.

So, you see, discouragement and feeling less than successful can actually open your eyes and gift you with the knowledge that you need to pick up, learn from this disappointment, and move forward.


Have you experienced recent disappointments or unmet expectations? Would you mind sharing in the comments or if you prefer use my Contact Page to email me?

 

Header Image Attribution: Viktor Hanacek via Picjumbo

Book Recommendations: Write Within Yourself and Fearless Writing by William Kenower — December 8, 2017

Book Recommendations: Write Within Yourself and Fearless Writing by William Kenower

Book Recommendations

Two books written by William Kenower have made a lasting impression on my writing life. Today I want to share those books with you. The books are titled Write Within Yourself: An Author’s Companion and Fearless Writing: How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence.

Write Within Yourself

When William Kenower wrote Write Within Yourself, he didn’t intend for it as a book on writing. His purpose was to write a companion for the author, the writer seeking direction in a most important arena–“what it takes to write the book you most want to write.”

Kenower is a man committed to many things, one of which is finding that direction to take you where you want to go. In the case of a writer wanting to write that book, the writer needs to understand “what it takes to lead the life you most want to live.”

Collected within the covers of this book are essays and stories from the author’s life which help remind the reader he/she has always known where he/she wants to go. But knowing is not all there is to getting there.

“If my life has taught me anything, it is that there is neither such a thing as too far from myself nor such a thing as too close. The door to our heart remains ever open to our attention, and once within it, we can travel as deeply as we wish, that well-being the only channel through which life is ever known.”

— Write Within Yourself by William Kenower, p. 10

This is a book a writer will want to keep handy for ready reference. Kenower’s life lessons and stories should ring true with almost every writer.

Fearless Writing

Kenower’s subtitle for Fearless Writing is How to Create Boldly and Write with Confidence. What author wouldn’t want to know more about boldness and confidence? The subtitle is what drew me to this book. Well, that and knowing William Kenower wrote it.

Recently, I was privileged to not only hear Kenower talk about writing fearlessly but also had the opportunity to attend a half-day workshop the next morning. Like his writing style, Kenower is an authentic personality with a great sense of humor sprinkled throughout presentations.

Don’t be fooled by those characteristics, however. His primary goal in life is to help other writers learn from his writing life’s journey.

Whether you are a beginning writer or a veteran with years of experience, there is much to be gained from reading Fearless Writing. Kenower defines fearlessness as “that elusive blend of self-acceptance, confidence, and curiosity. It is the defining quality he believes sets apart those who find fulfillment and success.

On the back cover, I love this quote from David Laskin, author of The Children’s Blizzard and The Family:

“William Kenower is as charismatic on the page as he is in person, and in Fearless Writing he has distilled his wisdom down to its electrifying essence. This is a book that any writer will cherish and learn from.”

My favorite quote from the book is:

“You will find your confidence and begin to write fearlessly the moment you stop caring about what anyone else thinks.”

— Fearless Writing by William Kenower, p. 10

These words have made a difference in how I face the page or computer screen each day. I believe this book will have a great impact on any writer who reads it.


About William Kenower:

William Kenower is the editor in chief of Author magazine, a sought-after speaker and teacher, and the author of the books recommended above. He’s been published in the New York Times and Edible Seattle, and was a featured blogger on the Huffington Post. His video interviews with hundreds of writers from Nora Ephron to Amy Tan to William Gibson, are widely considered the best of their kind on the Internet. He also hosts the online radio program Author2Author, where every week he and a different guest discuss the books we write and the lives we lead.

Kenower’s books are available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and IndieBound. You may connect with him via his website, Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

Welcome to … — August 30, 2017

Welcome to …

The Writing Studio

Not only a new place to hang out with my website and blog, but also a new name. A story in a minute to tell you how I came up with that name. I’m sure you’re wondering why the move. There are numerous answers to that question. I’ll be posting in coming days my reasons for considering the change.

New Name

Some months ago my husband, Bob, began designing a structure which started out as an extension on the end of our back porch. The extension would be in the form of a tower reaching up toward our Douglas fir trees. Like all designs, and yes blog posts, it went through several iterations. We jokingly talked about who space it was going to be and for what purpose.

Time for a Change

Having spent several months working from my recliner in our family room and still struggling with the comfort level of my office chair, I decided a change of scenery would be in order. I was further tempted by the fact that Bob’s design had turned into a writing space for me opposite our bedroom in the back yard. Here are a couple of examples of his handy workmanship on a difficult design. I still wonder what he was thinking when he drew this up as a hexagonal structure.   Several names were tossed around for this space–riter’s retreet (Bob), writing house (holdover from the days I spent in the Willamette Writers house), and then somehow we settled on The Writing Studio. Hence, the name for my site going forward. I want this to be my home as well as yours. A place where we can come together, share a cup of coffee or tea, and talk writing, words, books, or needy places in our souls. Hoping you’ll visit often.